Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut December 14, 2010 - 12:43 am

Towtongie claims NTI’s top job in tight race

Eetoolook, Anawak win two vice president seats

CHRIS WINDEYER

(Final version posted 4:40 p.m..)

Cathy Towtongie of Rankin Inlet won a closely-fought election Dec. 13 against 10 other candidates to return to the top job at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc..

With all communities reporting,  Towtongie, a former NTI president, held a 295-vote lead over Iqaluit’s Terry Audla.

Towtongie said she won because she only made two promises during the election campaign: she wants to review NTI’s finances to ensure the organization is stable, and wants to change the way Inuit impact benefit agreements from mining projects are negotiated to pay dividends directly to beneficiaries.

“We have to look at other land claim groups like Nunavik and do a comparative analysis how we can benefit from the impact of these mines,” she said.

The affair was a back-and-forth battle all night, with Audla, Joe Tigullaraq and Jerry Ell all holding leads at various points through the night.

Audla said he called Towtongie at around 1 a.m. ET to concede. He said with so many Baffin candidates running it was tough to beat Towtongie, whose support was concentrated mostly in the Kivalliq.

Audla also said he wasn’t able to campaign in the Baffin region because of weather.

“The numbers really reflected that I didn’t get to the Baffin,” he said. 

Mikidjuk Akavak, who finished sixth, expressed disappointment that a new face wasn’t selected to run NTI, but said the sheer number of Baffin candidates guaranteed vote splitting.

“When you do the math, sometimes too many candidates from the Baffin region will knock down any candidate that comes from the Baffin region,” he said.

With all communities reporting, Towtongie’s vote count stood at 1,200. Terry Audla held second place with 905, Jerry Ell held third with 866 and Joe Tigullaraq finished fourth with 760.

Patterk Netser had 579, Mikidjuk Akavak had 545, Jesse Mike 534, and Natsiq Alainga-Kango finished with 434. Niko Inuarak took 184 votes, Andrew Qaunaq 154 and Joe Sageatook 90.

This will be Towtongie’s second stint as head of NTI. She was first elected president in December 2001, defeating John Amagoalik, Jerry Ell, Methuselah Kunuk, Andrew Tagak and Rachel Qitsualik.

But in 2004 Towtongie lost the position to Paul Kaludjak, who held the job until NTI removed him from office earlier this fall because of issues related to unauthorized use of the organization’s corporate credit card.

It was also a tight contest for two NTI vice president positions.

At around 1:45 a.m. Dec. 14 James Eetoolook and Jack Anawak were declared elected to the two VP positions until 2014.

Incumbent vice president Eetoolook finished first with 2,937 votes, while former MP Jack Anawak came second with 2,848.

Raymond Ningeocheak, the other incumbent vice president, trailed Anawak by 244 votes for second place and will not regain a seat on NTI’s executive.

Towtongie, Eetoolook and Anawak were all sworn into to their new positions during the morning of Dec. 14.

For Anawak, it was his second election victory of the night, after taking a seat on the Iqaluit District Education Authority.

NTI’s current unofficial results are posted here: http://bit.ly/gkf0pl.

In the Qikiqtani region, incumbent George Eckalook was returned as vice president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Rita Mike was elected to serve as a community director for Pangnirtung.

Lori Idlout, the chief returning officer for the NTI vote, said turnout appeared to be higher than for the last NTI election.  Held in 2008, that election drew just 29 per cent of eligible voters.

Idlout said a polling station in Yellowknife in 2008 saw just 10 voters cast ballots in 2008. This time, the figure was much higher, with at least 80 people voting in Yellowknife.

Voter turnout sat at about 35 per cent, according to an NTI news release issued Dec. 14: bit.ly/fAufeG.

Ottawa beneficiaries were also able to cast ballots at a polling station, but Idlout said election organizers were unable to find poll clerks to run the election in Winnipeg and Edmonton.

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